Creation Club is Bethesda’s alternative to paid mods

In among the game announcements at E3 2017 Bethesda also announced Creation Club, “a collection of new game content for Skyrim and Fallout 4.” That content includes new weapons, armour, crafting and housing features, and changes to core systems, and you buy all of it in-game with ‘credits’ purchased for real money through Steam. Is this a new paid mods system? No, says the FAQ, “Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they’d like.”

Here’s the Creation Club trailer:

And here’s the full answer, re: paid mods.

No. Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they’d like. Also, we won’t allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club, it must all be original content. Most of the Creation Club content is created internally, some with external partners who have worked on our games, and some by external Creators. All the content is approved, curated, and taken through the full internal dev cycle; including localization, polishing, and testing. This also guarantees that all content works together. We’ve looked at many ways to do “paid mods”, and the problems outweigh the benefits. We’ve encountered many of those issues before. But, there’s a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things.

In short: yes, this is paid; but no, they aren’t mods in the traditional sense, since Bethesda approve and work with the creators of this new stuff in order to test and localise it. That seems fair to me. Creation Club essentially sounds like a way to create an ecosystem of paid DLC at a scale that Bethesda alone can’t operate. Heck, the above trailer includes Mudcrab armour, which was a PC Gamer backpage joke designed to take the piss out of Oblivion’s infamous horse armour DLC. It also sounds like the old idea of monetising the existing mod community is dead – ie. they’ve tried, but decided “the problems outweigh the benefits.”

The new system does raise more questions, though. If Bethesda and a partner make a new weapon, for example, and release it for money through Creation Club, what’s to stop someone in the modding community recreating that weapon and releasing it as a free item? Aside from morals, obviously. The Creation Club is either going to have to compete on quality and/or they’re going to get into the messy situation of trying to cease-and-desist modders and get things taken down from the Steam Workshop or TESNexus.

Although not anyone can release their work through the Creation Club, anyone will be able to submit a pitch through the system. It goes through an approval process, with Bethesda picking what gets accepted and what doesn’t.

“Paid mods”, if you don’t know, refers to Bethesda and Valve’s disastrous attempts to monetise the Skyrim modding community in 2015. They launched a system whereby creators could get paid for their work, there was a great deal of anger from the existing modding community, and the system was promptly shut down. You can read our take on the pros and cons here, and the views of some of the existing community here.

59 Comments

  1. Panicintrinsica says:

    Look, I’m not counter to the idea of paid mods in general. But this seems like a terrible idea. Bethesda has a long-established habit now of releasing staggeringly subpar and sometimes spectacularly broken games, using only the most buggy and outdated game engine known to mankind. For over a decade now, literally the only thing that has made any of their games playable has been the work of skilled modders who come in and fix/completely redo everything.

    Presumably, Bethesda will take a cut of any mod published on this platform, thus basically encouraging them to continue making horrifically broken garbage so they can not only get your $60 upfront for the game, and your $30 for a season pass, but then further nickel-and-dime you for essentially necessary community fixes.

    If this was coming from almost any other studio, I’d shrug it off, but from almost any other studio, the base game is playable sans-mods. This is setting up a situation where Bethesda games will basically cost $100 to $200 for the same quality as a $60 game from virtually anyone else.

    I mean, FFS, this is a studio that has spent six years re-releasing literally the same game over and over again. How many times do they honestly expect people to buy Skyrim? Bethesda doesn’t deserve any more money until they learn to actually make a playable game without having to fall back on an army of vastly more talented modders to fix everything for them.

    If they want to go the paid mod route, they should give the modder an 80-95% margin, and charge no more than $20 for the base game. Anything else is absurd.

    • Panicintrinsica says:

      Addendum:
      Before someone says “It’s not paid mods, look, they said so in the press release! ” – Yes, I saw that, and it changes nothing.

      They’re still trying to charge you extra for other people’s work to enhance their own inferior products. Going forward, why would they bother adding more than a handful of basic weapons if they can just get “creators” to make dozens of paid “optional” addons.

      All this is is an excuse for them to be even lazier than they already are, and demand more money for it.

    • Stevostin says:

      For over a decade now, literally the only thing that has made any of their games playable has been the work of skilled modders who come in and fix/completely redo everything.”

      I finished my first play through of each of their games without any mod (except the frost mod in Skyrim because mods were available from day one in that one). You’re speaking nonsense.

      Also Bethesda are more or less the only one going for that Open World / each prop is really something you can grab / character do travel the map etc. setting. IMO this render the criticism on their ability to make it work weak. Clearly it does work well enough (see above) and clearly we don’t have comparison on whether it can be done substantially better.

      • Archonsod says:

        Can’t think of any mod that was required to make Bethesda’s games playable. Unless you define unplayable as ‘unable to see elf breasts’ anyway.

        • Horg says:

          Examples would include fixes to the 64hz micro-stutter bug, present in every creation engine game except 64 bit Skyrim, and fixes to the RAM limitations / memory leak problems the 32 bit games have all suffered from, which caused regular crashes.

        • Harlaw says:

          Claims of Bethesda games being unplayable without mods are slightly exaggerated, but Bethesda games are still pretty much guaranteed to ship with a sh*tton of bugs which can severely decrease enjoyment. In the case of Skyrim, that mods like the [Unofficial Patches](link to nexusmods.com?) and separate fixes for the lip sync bug, enchantment reload bug, brawl bug, etc. exist and are considered necessary by the wider modding community proves that.

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            Ah yes, the Unofficial Patches.

            Because my gaming experience is totally ruined if I ever come across a pebble in the wilderness with inadequate geometry.

          • Guy Montag says:

            The unofficial patches have become so large by fixing Bethesda’s errors that they themselves have their own bug ecosystem, that’s how much shit needs to be fixed with a Bethesda game. Not just pebbles on paths or innumerable typos, but the common script and mechanical issues that lead to save bloat or bugs that can occur at any time but only show their bad effects far into a run of the game.

            And there still plenty that unofficial patches will never solve, engine level bugs like scripts conveniently not resetting in order to fire again after a save is reloaded (say, after you’re killed), which could easily lead to effectively untrackable save errors.

            There’s no downplaying the bugs in creation engine games. It is a frightening beast.

    • LANCERZzZz says:

      But you’re wrong. Bethesda has been making critically acclaimed games that a vocal minority of gamers who are too obtuse to upgrade their PCs have bashed because it isn’t exactly like the original game in the series. It doesn’t matter what a game company does, unless they’re handing out free shit gamers are going to always complain. Hell, even when they hand out free shit gamers still don’t bite, just look at Titanfall 2’s dead servers.

      • ohminus says:

        Right, quality control is for sissies and every company out there doing it is manned by a bunch of ignorant losers.

        How about you grow up and get a mature relationship with money instead?

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      This is hyperbolic nonsense to an absurd degree.

    • jomurph86 says:

      Disagree 100% with your assertion about the coders, designers, programmers, artists, and everyone else at Bethesda being “lazy”. And all your other aspersions.

      BUT you and I are on complete agreement here: “If they want to go the paid mod route, they should give the modder an 80-95% margin. Anything else is absurd.”

      They don’t have to do it this way, but if they only took enough cut to cover hosting expenses and gave everything else back to the modders, that would be admirable.

    • fish99 says:

      It’s a huge exaggeration to say Bethesda RPGs need mods to be playable. I’ve played and finished them all unmodded.

      Also they re-released Skyrim once, and it was free on PC if you already had the game + DLC.

  2. BobbyDylan says:

    Hmmm… I’m starting to really dislike the need for game makes to have all the money. Is selling a $60 game, and a $60 expansion pass not enough?
    Anywhew, whatever. I doubt I’ll ever use this.

    • Stevostin says:

      OTOH each of their game I register between 200 and 400 hours in the counter. I don’t really have to think a lot to know if I am buying their stuff.

  3. Jane Doe says:

    The question is not if they are paid mods or who who makes them. The question is, will Bethesda ensure compatibility or at least create a warning system when faced with a Skyrim installation of 200+ mods?

    Or will this thing end up to be like Steam, for players who have no interest in actually “modding” their game, but are just looking for a few minor add-ons?

    I’m currently running 317 Skyrim mods with over 2000 new animations, perfectly sorted, cleaned, compatibility patched, and made to play nice together with Mod Organizer.

    I don’t see how yet another mod source fits into my game, and I’m pretty sure this will end up a stillbirth like paid modding, or–more likely–an attempt to make the console players pay for some fancy bling.

    P.S.: The promise to keep them “achievement friendly” made me laugh. That makes it all better, no?

    • Archonsod says:

      From the sound of it it’s going to be a micro-DLC factory rather than anything else.
      I’m not sure if a compatibility warning or the like would really be feasible. You could probably chuck up an alert if something later in the load order was trying to modify something that had already been modified, but given the number of mods (and for that matter official content) that rely on doing this that’s going to happen a lot, and you’re still kinda dependent on the end user knowing enough to be able to say which ones are a problem and which ones can be safely ignored.

      • LexW1 says:

        That’s exactly what it sounds like. That they’ll use this to churn out tons of small-scale DLC for their games – new weapons, new spells, new mounts, new armour, new houses, etc. – new anything that’s small-scale and entirely modular.

        My worry is that it puts them in a sort of “conflict of interest” with allowing more serious modding.

        Say TES6 comes out. Normally we’d expect the mod tools to follow as soon as it was viable, because they help sell copies of the game. But with this, wouldn’t it make more sense to just release a limited version of the mod tools to members of the “club” for them to make stuff for the “club”, whilst they “work on” the more serious mod tools (possibly forever)? That way they have a window where the only mods are monetized mods, and no-one can get that mad, if a few months or a year later, they release the full tools – but long after the “club” content has utterly colonized many of the game-spaces mods normally would (like collections of new weapons or armour).

        • jomurph86 says:

          Good point, I think. I’m guessing the mod-tools will be pre-released to Club modders and come out at the same time as release for everyone else to use. At least, that’s how I’d do it.

        • brucethemoose says:

          Exactly.

          This is a horse armor generator.

        • sosolidshoe says:

          Restricting mod tools to avoid competition with Club DLC is definitely a concern. My other concern would be if, going forward, they bring the big core “dependency” mods into this program – it’s all very well to say that mods will continue to be free, but if I have to fork over a fiver for Script Extender, another fiver for MCM, another fiver for the main PC UI mod and so forth in order to use the smaller free mods that rely on the features they add to function then they’ll still be adding a big extra cost before you can get to the “free” stuff.

          That’s not a prediction or anything, just a fear.

          Otherwise I don’t think there’s much to complain about here at all. I had three main issues with paid mods – it’s amateur hobby work so charging money like it’s professional isn’t on IMO; there’s no guarantee of quality or ongoing support, or even the chance to get your money back if a given mod just won’t play nice with your load order; and I really hated that some mod authors were evidently planning to take mods that were already part of my game, that I considered essential to my enjoyment of that game, and lock ongoing support for them away behind a paywall(as a heavy modder, even if a quarter of the mods I use had done that and even charging just a couple of quid each you’d be approaching 80-100 quid just to keep playing the game I was already playing when a patch inevitably broke something and everything needed updating).

          Creation Club sidesteps all those issues, at least for now. I’ll keep my torch & pitchfork on standby in case this proves to be an opening move in a strategy to snuff out free modding, or if big core dependency mods end up going paid in future FO/ES games, but for now it seems like the least offensive idea these corporate numpties have come up with for monetising community-created content.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    How dare people demand compensation for their labour I deserve free stuff etc. etc.

    • LexW1 says:

      Who are you even responding to?

      Literally no-one has said that.

      People paying for mods could be fine. A mod my wife has had something like a million downloads, so even at 10 cents a pop that could have been amazing. The problem is the implementation, every time. And this sounds like it has problematic implementation.

      Specifically it doesn’t sound like it’ll actually allow for large-scale overhaul mods or the like, effectively operate as a sort of “bling shop” like for TF2 or CSGO, and it’s single-player-bling, so it even sadder, with only modular content being able to be added this way.

    • ohminus says:

      If you had any idea about business, you would grasp that people don’t get compensated for labour, but for the value they provide to other people. Your belief that you deserve to be compensated for plucking lint out of your navel is cute, but that’s not how the world works. People decide for themselves what value they attribute to what product how much they are willing to pay for it, and no immature stomping your feet that you have a god-given right to other people’s wallet is going to change that. Get a grip and buy a marketing textbook.

    • upupup says:

      Hard day’s work propping up those strawmen, ay?

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      Clearly you don’t understand how markets work. Either that or you’re trying to get a rise out of people who do.

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        Um… but Bethesda clearly thinks there is a market for paid mods?

    • Mezelf says:

      How many modders were “demanding compensation” for their work before Bethesda and Valve put the idea of fat cash rewards into modders’ minds?

      Your strawman argument pretends the world of modding before Valve/Bethesda paid mods was full of starving coders and programmers forced to work for the so-called “ENTITLED GAMERS”. If that world of free mods was so dire for the creators, how come so many of them did the work anyway expecting nothing more than the freedom of creative expression, the respect of the community and the occasional donation? I seem to recall a certain nexus website dedicated to a thriving community of modders…

      Literally nobody has ever said modders don’t deserve compensation. But this situation did not happen in a vacuum. The reality of video games in 2016/2017 is that every single “AAA-game” comes with:
      – a €20 to €40(!) season pass
      – and/or a subscription
      – and/or micro-transactions
      – and/or a digital deluxe version of some kind
      – and/or a pre-order bonus
      All of this on top of a full €60 price tag!

      So please forgive us, despicable haggards us, when we’re not excited for the next ground breaking scheme that’ll drive up the actual total costs for every single game going forth.
      After all, what measure is a man when he’s not a whale?!

      I know, I know, you’ve already stopped listening/reading because I obviously think modders should work for free etc. etc. I’m just another naïve fool blind to the future.
      We didn’t predict the explosion of live-streaming and the possibility of uploading videos to youtube as a valid means of income. What if mainstream paid mods is the next big thing?

      Just don’t forget that the only commitment expected from consumers of youtube and twitch is their time. As long as other modders continue to “mod for free”, the world of Bethesda-games-modding will be a highly competitive marketplace. Just as countless mods have outshined official DLC releases in both technical features and creativity, so will free mods (probably) outshine paid mods.

      The same is not true for simulation games modding, where the marketplace is incredibly niche and consumers are used to the idea of investing large amounts of cash into peripherals, official modules and paid mods. Trust me, I’m very familiar with this world.

      TL;DR: good luck with your paid mods. If it takes a hundred of your paid mods to make the next TES as enjoyable as modded Skyrim or Fallout 3, consider me out. The world of open world RPG games is not exactly starved of other options.

      • Michael Anson says:

        I love how you are ignoring the history of:
        a) modders requesting donations to continue their work (complete with support from Nexus);
        b) modders being sent cease-and-desist letters for demanding to be paid up front for their work, in violation of ToS/EULA terms.

  5. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    The should never have mentioned the term “mods”, not even in the FAQ. This is licensed third party DLC. Bringing up mods just makes everyone think of all their free fan-produced content being locked behind a pay wall, but everyone knows what DLC is and knows free is the exception, not the rule.

    • jusplathemus says:

      I don’t think that avoiding the mention of mods would’ve made much of a difference, it was bound to pop up either way. Though I must admit, calling them “licensed third party DLC” in this case sounds like a good idea.

    • Emeraude says:

      I’m reminded of Uber’s attempts to rework contracts so as to never mention the term “employee”.

  6. darkath says:

    I’m ambivalent on this. On one hand it’s a way to support content creators in a proper way, and with bethesda support for testing/localization/QA. But on other hands it goes against what makes modding great : being a hobby of passionate people that pushes the limit of what is possible in their favorite games with unfettered creativity.
    I fear the prospect of getting paid for creating mods will split this modding community apart.

  7. Dinges says:

    So after Valve attempted this with Steam, Bethesda thinks they can do better?

    Eventually, both will succeeed.

  8. upupup says:

    This is just another attempt to ease in the idea of paid mods which, in any shape or form, is still a terrible idea that isn’t in anyone’s interest bar the big companies pushing it. All the guarantees they give mean absolutely nothing when the other party consists of thousands of tiny players who won’t be able to hold them to their word. There’s lots of reasons for this:

    – The foundation of modding is freely sharing one’s work and ideas. Mod interdependence is a good thing that should not be discouraged by giving people a stake in screwing each other over on who owns what and harassing others over wanting compensation. There’s enough modding drama already without adding money as a factor. Just look at the list of mods involved in any big mod and imagine the nightmare of giving every person in every team for every mod their ‘due’, or even figuring out who legally owns what to begin with.

    – For those that want make money there have always been options anyway, from it being a good way to find employment in the industry or serve as a staging ground for their own projects. This nothing new. There is also no need to use the hypothetical of a handful of modders who might have genuinely profited from this change when their skills would translate to well-paying positions anyway, especially when the community as a whole would suffer for it.

    – One of the reasons modding projects haven’t been systemically stamped out already through C&D’s is that it hasn’t been profitable to do so. Once you give companies incentive to either pressure people into turning their free mod into a paid mod (from which the company will get a cut, of course) or halt their project to make room for someone who will with the threat of legal action, you’ll this change very quickly. It won’t matter if these projects are legally in the clear, because all these small projects won’t have the financial clout or legal knowledge to defend themselves.

    – Bethesda doesn’t need to profit from all the work of others tangentially related to theirs but not made by them now and forever until the end of all, which is the real purpose of this. This is a perversion of copyright, not its intent.

    – Adding money as a ‘motivator’ is no guarantee for quality or good support, so it is not as if we’ll suddenly see an increase in modding quality. Modders already put unreasonable amounts of effort into their projects because it is their passion and adding money won’t somehow allow them to put in 110%. Besides, what tends to get more support: paid for games or the projects maintained by fans?

    – Most importantly however, and something which tends to get severely underappreciated, is that we should not be encouraging people to see every aspect of their lives as something to be monetised. People should have room to have hobbies that are valuable for their own sake and without any pressure to at some point turn it into a source of income. Just let people enjoy what they do without whispering to them not being paid for it means it’s not being appreciated.

    • CAMN says:

      It’ll be fun watching Bethesda deal with all the constant “this mod uses my code from this other mod I wrote, I demand compensation for it”.

      Either that, or there will be a long list of mods forever stuck in some sort of litigation department. With people pointing fingers, calling other modders out about who did what first.

    • Nest says:

      Really really well said. Thank you for writing this.

  9. hostilecrab says:

    The rampant cynicism I’m seeing from people following this news makes me kinda sad. I mean I understand people wanting to be cautious, but really this just seems to me…kinda cool? Bethesda bringing people in from the community, giving them support, polish, all that jazz. That sounds cool, man. Makes me think of how Firaxis worked with the Long War devs to make cool new mods for XCOM 2.

    That’s not to say I can’t see any potential problems with the system, and I’m really not sure how it’s going to work out. It could be a terrible idea, it could be abusive, it could be any number of things. But it could be cool, too.

    In a way it makes me think about the voiced protagonist issue from Fallout 4. Bethesda tried something different with the game, and the people who didn’t like it HATED it and the vitriol from that was, in my opinion, way out of proportion. I didn’t like the voiced protagonist myself, but I still loved Fallout 4 despite that and I really think Bethesda should get some props for trying to mix things up and do something different with their formula, even if it maybe didn’t quite hit the mark.

    I’m not entirely sure what my point is here, except to say that I’m saddened by all the cynicism and knee-jerk hate for this news. I don’t know. Peace and love, yo.

    • Horg says:

      ”I’m saddened by all the cynicism and knee-jerk hate”

      The criticism of paid modding is neither of these things. If you follow the links provided in the article you can read in depth arguments, for and against, from the last time this came up, including some real life examples of how it went horribly wrong within hours of launch. Now this creation club is slightly different from steam mods, in that it’s curated by Bethesda (for now), but most of the original arguments against paid mods still apply.

    • jomurph86 says:

      With you, on both Fallout 4 and the potential for this to be a good thing.

      I’m a cheapskate and wouldn’t pay for Frostfall if I didn’t have to (I’ve got kids! College debt! Two unreliable vehicles! Medical expenses! Blah, blah, blah). BUT I’d happily pay for it if it were a paid mod…

      Shit. Just talked myself into donating a few bucks to Chesko. How will my kids go to college now?!

  10. Goodluck Jonathon says:

    If I can still go to Nexus Mods and get my small to mid size mods and tweaks for free, whilst the stand out mods like Moonpath to Elsweyr/Falskaar/FO4 Cascadia and their ilk have a platform for extra support from Bethesda and the potential for a bit of remuneration, I’m cool with that. If its implemented right, it could raise the modding scene to a new level with teams of modders able to support themselves full time or put a dent in their tuition fees, gain project experience etc.

  11. Furiant says:

    I predict that the pipeline will be its downfall. There will be a backlog of submissions which will necessitate “quality standards” that create suspicion and resentment. Not to mention that as the corpus grows larger, the work involved in curation will inflate, and the process will become too inefficient to be sustainable.

    Nice back-of-a-napkin idea, but I’m concerned that this will completely replace conventional modding, leaving the players with less content while the company stubbornly pretends it’s working.

  12. SaintAn says:

    This is paid mods, not an alternative. Make sure to boycott/prate all their games from now on.

    • fish99 says:

      Or you could just not buy any mods.

    • Apologised says:

      First Person Shooters give me motion sickness, so technically I already am?
      Wait, I got the Pinball FX table pack, do they get any money from that?

  13. tamlieu says:

    Bethesda:”Can I copy your homework?”
    Paid Mods:”Yeah just change it up a bit so it doesn’t look obvious you copied”
    Bethesda:”Ok”
    *Later, in Creation Club*
    “Is Creation Club paid mods?
    No.”

  14. Dlarit says:

    I don’t get all the fuss over this, there are thousands of free Mods for these games, if we don’t want to pay for them cant we either just use those or not buy anything from creation club?
    I personally avoided mods on my Xbox version due to not wanting to break the achievement system so this would tempt me… but when I think about it I don’t really want to spend my money on a new stabber or shooter when there are 100’s of them in game anyway.

    Lets all just chill out and not buy mudcrab armour if you don’t want to.

  15. racccoon says:

    Modding was a once a privateer’s version of destruction of a game for there own means, now its become a business for the devs to gain dribs & drabs of money out of the modder. This kind of loses its notoriety as great fun idea of manipulations by way of hacks. I think they’ll need something else to do now, as money is kind of boring..lol

  16. KastaRules says:

    This is exactly the kind of behaviour that pushes me to boycott a company.
    Enough is enough.

  17. Regicider 12.4% says:

    So I guess we’ll see Mod Piracy 2.0 if they don’t introduce an encryption scheme to the mod files this time. Plus the thing with claiming other modders stealing ideas, code and concepts from last time.

    Also going to be interesting to see how certain Dramatically Inclined auteurs (who aren’t exactly the best at handling criticism and annoying users) will cope when they realise those annoyboys are now paying customers.
    Can’t just slam the door and delete everything then.

  18. Ham Solo says:

    Will you have to pay for mods?
    No. But you will have to pay for mods.

    GG, WP…

  19. jomurph86 says:

    I love how modders who want to try their hand at monetizing their work, can, and modders who want to still work for free, can. Everybody gets to do what they want to do!

  20. lordkane82 says:

    Or i can just bypass all of this and use nexus mods. :)

  21. Osucarus says:

    I’d like to see bugfixes being sold in the Creation Club. That would be awesome, right?

  22. Moonracer says:

    I think Bethesda’s sales pitch is off. Nothing in that trailer looked or sounded like something you can’t get free off the Nexus already. If the content for sale was focused on large scale content on par with official DLC it might be taken seriously. If this service offered something half the size of Far Harbor or Nuka World and of that quality for $10 I would consider it.